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On October 31, National Skills Coalition, joined by more than 400 local, regional, state and national organizations—covering 45 states and Puerto Rico—wrote to members of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee urging the Senate to bring the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) to the floor.
In July, the HELP committee voted 18-3 to advance a WIA reauthorization bill out of committee. Though several months have passed, the bill still has yet to reach the floor for debate, amendments and a vote.
While National Skills Coalition believes improvements could be made to the Senate WIA bill, including providing dedicated support for sector partnerships, it is important that the bill move through the legislative process. WIA remains especially vulnerable to funding cuts as long as it needs to be reauthorized, and reauthorization is an important way for policymakers to demonstrate their support for the program.
WIA, originally authorized in 1998, is more than a decade overdue for reauthorization. The workforce development field has made significant advances since WIA was originally authorized in providing employment and training services, including:
Congress must act to reauthorize WIA if these best practices are to be reflected in current law.
The House passed its WIA reauthorization bill, called the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act, earlier this year. If the Senate passes its bill, they would then move to a conference with the House in an effort to develop compromise legislation that reconciles the differences between the two bills.
In its current form, the Senate bill is quite different than the SKILLS Act, and it is presently unclear whether or how the differences between the two measures could be resolved in conference. National Skills Coalition will continue to weigh in with policymakers to strengthen and reform our nation’s workforce system.